Who am I?
My name is Gemma. I am a bit of a jack of all trades as I am a PhD student, international athlete and freelance food and science writer. I am currently in Leeds for my PhD, but I grew up in Oxfordshire and my family still live in the county. I have always been very active. As a child I used to love trampolining, swimming and gymnastics. But, when I entered secondary school, I developed a passion for running. I competed in many local races for my school and later for my club, Oxford City. I continued to run whilst at the University of Birmingham and found a talent for endurance events. I was offered a full athletic scholarship to McNeese State University in America, where I continued to improve my running. Whilst there I also completed a dual master’s in health Promotion and Exercise Physiology.
When I returned to the UK, after two years in the USA, I moved to Leeds to do a PhD in public health. Leeds was and still is, the national hub for racewalking. Despite still loving to run, I was keen for a new challenge. So, I decided to switch gears and become a walker. Within a few months I had unexpectedly become one of the top up-and-coming race walkers in England. In my first season, I became British champion over 3km and English champion over 10km. A few weeks later I shocked myself when I achieved the fastest 20-kilometer debut time in British history (1:37:35). Then, even more shockingly, in June of the same year, I shaved more than five minutes off my time and qualified for the IAAF World Championships in London. I had some injury issues in 2018 and 2019, but I was fortunate enough to be selected to compete at the Commonwealth Games, which were held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
Despite the current pandemic, I recently completed my PhD, and am still training hard. I am working to return to the form of 2017 so that I can achieve selection for the Tokyo Olympics, which were recently rescheduled to 2021 as a result of COVID-19.
Why I would like to support ABC
Like most people, I have many friends, family and colleagues who have battled with cancer. I have seen how horrible the condition can be. The only way that we are going to stop cancer, is through dedicated research. But as a PhD student, I fully appreciate how hard it can be to conduct research if you lack financial resources. As a result, the work of charities like ABC, and the support that they receive from the community, is invaluable.
What am I going to do to help?
I am excited to have been asked to assist ABC with one of their biggest sporting events of the year, the Breast Walk Ever. Over the next few months I am going to be sharing training tips, nutrition advice and motivational quotes, to inspire and encourage as many of you as possible to get your walking shoes on.